When I started running Obstacles Races I learnt that experience of off road running did not help too much. It is one thing to run on dried or wet earth and another to run or struggle through ankle, knee or even chest deep mud. Luckily I had an amazing coach who patiently perfected my OCR technique. And I’d like to pass on this education.
In these situations you have to prepare for the unexpected as best you can. But how do you prepare for the unexpected or for the unseen? Well, if you can’t see the rocks, roots or branches underneath all that mud then you need to make sure your body is naturally reactive and prepared to deal with it without your eyes.
These are three things you can do to prepare your body to instinctively address unforeseen situations.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
1. Training your stability muscles
In your body you have the main stability muscles such as quadriceps (the front of you legs) and your core (mid section of your body). But in every little joint you have minuscule stability muscles which strengthen the joints and subsequently the whole body.
Having strong stability muscles helps you maintain and regain your balance, recover faster from small twists and sprains and recover faster from more serious injuries as well.
To train you stability muscles I suggest doing the following:
– Practice balance exercises on different and uneven surfaces. The more difficult it is for you to hold your balance the more your stability muscles are engaged. Balance exercises should be challenging but achievable
– Slow calf raises. Many people can do an exercise fast but when you slow down it becomes more difficult because it challenges those small muscles within your joints
– Squats and lunges. When you take on these two exercises put down the weights and focus on technique for a while. I see so many gym enthusiasts lunging with 20kg Kettlebells and their legs shaking all over the place. You get absolutely nothing good out of that
– Focus on slow squats and lunges. Focus on those knees to keep them from shaking left and right. Make sure the arch of the foot is nicely lifted and the foot strongly rooted into the ground
2. Learning falling technique
In case you do lose your balance and fall I suggest you learn basic falling technique. Get your body prepared to meet the ground so it does not receive it as a shock.
It is also important to bear in mind that learning a falling technique on a matt is fine but you need to practice it on rough terrain, over roots and in mud. Get your body ready for the impact.
To learn proper falling techniques ask a Martial Arts professional who has experience in Judo, Aikido, Daito Ryu or similar disciplines, an OCR Coach who teaches falling techniques or a Parkour instructor.
3. Learning how to run to minimizes the risk of falling, slipping and injuring yourself
As previously mentioned mud running is very different to all other running, on-road, off-road or treadmill.
Heel striking and over striding on sticky, slippery mud will be your doom. I’ve seen it over and over again. I’m not saying that good shoes will not help heel strickers and over striders but holding your feet underneath your body and landing mid-foot will lower your risk of slipping and tumbling to the ground in all directions. And good technique will also reduce the risk of injuries.
4. Proper shoes
You can imagine what I am talking about. I’m talking about off off road shoes to deal with the mud but also the gallons of water. You need a pair of shoes with really good grip, close to the ground (but not minimalistic unless you have transitioned properly) so you have more control. A pair of shoes that do not get too heavy when wet and muddy. Water needs to be able to go in and out, so no water resistant shoes, the water is certain to penetrate but it will have no way to get out.
I personally use Inov8 shoes. However I did run a Spartan Beast with Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon. It was marvellous. However I do not recommend running with Vibram FiveFingers as the risk of injury is very high.
Enjoy your balance exercises and falling lessons and if you need further guidance connect and contact me on Facebook, LinkedIn or my website, there are many ways to get hold of me. See you next time.